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  1. #1
    frank's Avatar
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    Aside from technical considerations, how valid is it to suggest changes to someone else's images? Isn't that just saying, "Your vision is flawed. My vision is superior?"

    Isn't all we can say, "My vision matches your vision of a particular image and therefore I like it," or "My vision does not match your vision of this image and therefore I think it can be improved to more closely match what I think it should look like,"?

    Even some technical issues are personal. For example, for a particular image, some people prefer a darker printing treatment, some like grain, soft contrast, filed neg carriers, blur, or even out-of-focus subjects.

    (BTW, I'm not posting this as a response to anyone's criticism of my images, this post was brought about by my examination of my desire to critique others' images.)

    It does make me feel good when people whose photos I like, also like mine, but it could well be that a particular image resonates in me due to my peculiar history/experiences/influences that leaves someone else unstirred. That does not make it an unsuccessful image, unless the only reason I took it was to have others like it.

    Anyone have views on this topic?

    Frank S.
    Art should unsettle the comfortable, and comfort the unsettled.

    My photo website: http://frankfoto.jimdo.com/

  2. #2

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    Aside from technical considerations, how valid is it to suggest changes to someone else's images? Isn't that just saying, "Your vision is flawed. My vision is superior?"
    Criticism does usually not suggest any changes nor does it really judge about a piece of work. We have to differentiate between criticism and recommendations, although both might appear at the same place. This depends on whether recommendations are perhaps expected or custom. One can usually judge the value of an advice by the quality of the criticism.

    Isn't all we can say, "My vision matches your vision of a particular image and therefore I like it," or "My vision does not match your vision of this image and therefore I think it can be improved to more closely match what I think it should look like,"?
    Yes. However, serious criticism isn't limited to the vision, because serious art isn't limited to that, too. There is usually a context in which some kind "further concept" exists. The critic ideally has to deal with that concept, too.

    Even some technical issues are personal. For example, for a particular image, some people prefer a darker printing treatment, some like grain, soft contrast, filed neg carriers, blur, or even out-of-focus subjects.
    A serious criticism usually contains:
    • - A description of what the critic sees
      - An interpretation of what he has seen. The more a critic knows about the context of a piece of work, the better he can interpret it. This ideally includes: knowing the artist, his concepts and his other work.
      - A well-founded conclusion why the work is good or bad (or art at all - :-))
      - Finally yet importantly: no one will refuse a critic a personal opinion. However, it should be clear that it is a personal opinion.

  3. #3
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Criticism can serve a number of purposes. I think in the context of critiques of photographs by other photographers, the main purpose should be to help the photographer sharpen his or her vision.

    If the photograph doesn't affect the critic in the way the photographer intended, that is useful information that can come out in critique. Also, sometimes someone else might see a possibility in an image that the original photographer didn't consider, so the printing or rephotography process in the critique circle can become a kind of conversation where different versions are tried, perhaps leading to a "final" statement of the photographer's vision in response to this kind of dialogue, or perhaps many interesting variations.

  4. #4

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    I think it's ok to split the difference between art criticism and recommendations by calling it a critique. If you request a critique, you are saying, "What is your reaction to my work; is there anything you think I ought to consider from a technical or aesthetic point of view that would make it better?"

    At some level, we want our photographs to communicate something, i.e., elicit an emotional reaction. Our choice of format, subject matter, where we set up the camera, choice of B&W or Color, choice of film, paper and process could all have been done differently. Our cropping, tonal range, presentation, likewise.

    We are emotionally involved in our image before anyone else is, this can lead to blind spots based on our emotional investment in the image. I remember showing an image that was fairly mediocre but being very nonobjective about it. I remembered carrying the view camera down the ravine, getting eaten alive by bugs and standing in the water to make it. A "disinterested" (in the good sense) observer didn't experience any of this; they just saw a photo that should have never made it out of the darkroom.

    There are a range of reasons to ask for a critique, from, "I think I've done something significant here, does the Greek chorus agree?" to "This one is close, but I think I'm missing something, can you offer suggestions?"

    Generally, people asking for a critique are looking for an honest, if polite, response. We create as individuals and have our own blind spots. A well done critique should motivate a person to keep at it and will suggest ways to look at the world differently. Hypothetically, if I were looking a portrait you took, I might say, "This is really good, the expression you captured makes the person an individual. However, if you cropped a little off the left side, you'd eliminate that large, out of focus, highlight that's fighting for attention with the face." You had been spending so much time getting the exposure on the face exactly right, you weren't even looking at the left hand edge of the picture.

    You should be careful whom you ask for a critique/opinion, otherwise all your your picts will be of warm puppies.

  5. #5
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    I agree with most of the comments here. We are all on a journey. Any opinion of our work can be helpful. The opinions that we dismiss also go towards sharpening our beliefs in what we do. The opinions and critiques that we absorb will go towards making our work better.

    I have never found much value in people fawning over my work. I much prefer a good hard edged critique, more along the line of "tough love". I also have had great opinions from people who have never picked up a camera, some of their insights were profound. So just listening to the masters is not the only way to learn.

    Later

    Michael McBlane
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  6. #6

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    The critiques I have had of my prints have usually been pretty tough, not in the sense that the person said "this is crap" but where they really took apart the photograph in segments and pointed out little details in composition or technique which would have made the print more effective. I like this kind of cirtiques, but the kind which are subjective and get the person going with the art speak I cannot stomack, nor do I learn anything from them.

    So, I am in favor of pointing out small details which can improve my prints or technique, but certainly dont agree with the judgement part. Like they say...some say pootato some say potaaato....:-)

  7. #7
    RAP
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    This from an essay by Ben Breard, AfterImage gallery about dealing with untalented photographers.

    "I try to handle untalented photographers gently and positively. Most any of them can improve with more years of work, but they still might not be at a gallery level. I try to be truthful, but it's not easy. Frequently I hear myself saying (chickening out), "We just don't have a market for your kind of work." I usually don't have the heart to pronounce, "Your work just isn't of gallery quality, and it may never be."
    Time & tides wait for no one, especially photographers.

  8. #8

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    I think a critique is a two-way street.

    First off, if you put your work out there, you have to expect a certain response. I figure that if I am asking for a critique, then I should be open to suggested changes.

    Likewise, one doing the critique should offer constructive statements. Both positive and negative or just positive (if there are no negatives). They should also be open to the image and try to learn from it themselves.

    Ideally then both parties will come away enriched somewhat. The artist will get valuable feedback, and the critic will also have been enriched by viewing the image and THINKING about it (which hones their analytical skills).

    One should also be willing to simply accept that they may like an image and someone else may not. When that is the case I don't offer such an image up for critique.
    Official Photo.net Villain
    ----------------------
    [FONT=Comic Sans MS]DaVinci never wrote an artist's statement...[/FONT]

  9. #9

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    I think that your desire to critique is more than fine. I notice that folks have their own opinions of their work. If they like it and you don't, then typically they will deem you unable to get what they are expressing. Contrarily, if they really don't think their work is up to par, no matter how much you love it, they will only figure it "will do" at best. The biggest worry I would guess would be to criticize someone who doesn't think they are up to par, and may be over sensitive to boot. But these people tend to wash out one way or another.

    Besides your opinion as a viewer is just as valid as the artists', maybe more. I gather you are also a photographer so you are worried about seeming superior; but would you say that an average viewer shouldn't voice an opinion? Then you should also be able to do the same. I think, short of being rude, the photographers' responses to your critiques are too personal for you to feel responsible about. If you don't respond, that could be just as hurtful, as could insincere support.

    Be yourself, say what you think; that is my vote.

  10. #10

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    I concur with Jorge's post. If you take your work to a gallery that understands photography or have it critiqed by a well known photographer you will discover that there are certain conventions that apply. These include rules of composition, tonality of the print, cropping, lighting etc. A lot of technical aspects that are seen before the subject is discussed. That is because a gallery owner understands that certain flaws in technique distract from the viewer seeing the artists vision. Of course for every rule there is an established artist that can break them or create new conventions.

    I think it is important to be open the criticism as a way to see how to improve our work. If someone has the knowledge to look at my work and point out ways to improve I am all for it. It can be only a couple of improvements that can make a mediocre image in to an outstanding one. i don't mind the extra help.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
    Robert Adams

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